HAMPTON, Va. - With the first day of Phase One of reopening the state Friday, restaurants are now allowed to seat customers outside at half capacity. Since those seating areas in Hampton are pretty limited, the city has plans to make space for outdoor dining.
To allow more people to dine outdoors with social distancing, City Manager Mary Bunting announced on Facebook Live Thursday evening that the city is moving forward with plans to close portions of Queens Way and Mellen Street to allow restaurants to secure temporary outdoor dining permits there. She said this will happen potentially as soon as next weekend.
“City Council is very proactive and creative in supporting solutions for local businesses, as well as local customers,” Bunting said after the broadcast.
Bunting said restaurants would only need to fill out a short form in order to receive a permit. This form will be available on the city's website on Monday, and there is no cost to apply. Bunting said she expects approval to also be a quick process.
Restaurants that want to serve alcohol in the expanded outdoor areas would also need to apply to the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC), which has also said approval will be an expedited process.
Bunting noted that while both Queens Way and Mellen Street have popular rows of restaurants clustered together, there are similar opportunities for other businesses. Depending on location, these businesses can seek the use of sidewalks or expanded areas in shopping centers with the permission of the landlord.
The state has set up strict guidelines that restaurants must follow. In addition to between diners, there are rules about cleaning and sanitizing between customers, using disposable menus and other efforts to minimize the spread of the virus.
In a special virtual meeting Thursday afternoon, the Virginia Beach City Council unanimously voted to approve an ordinance allowing Acting City Manager Tom Leahy to approve temporary outdoor dining permits.
Under Phase One, restaurants that have been limited to serving curbside can now begin seating customers outside for the first time since March. Many restaurants are now faced with tackling the challenges of staying safe and staying open.